Interview: Jabu Newman on The Foxy Five & Speaking at Design Indaba Festival
Jabu Nadia Newman
We caught up with young photographer, filmmaker and creator of The Foxy Five web series Jabu Nadia Newman to find out about The Foxy Five's recent talk and presentation at Design Indaba Festival as well as her thoughts on subjects such as feminism, politics and more. Pictured below are other members of the Foxy Five.
What was it like speaking at Design Indaba last week and what did you take from that experience?
It was incredible but also the most nerve wrecking thing I have ever done. I felt like I was going to faint at times. We were in front of 1,500 people so it was a really big deal. I spoke about misrepresentation; the Bechdel test and The Foxy Five did a live performance of a scene from our upcoming episode. People were shocked with some of the things that were said and the issues we raised but I think it was more eye opening than offensive.
How do you think Design Indaba is creating a platform for young creatives? Do you plan on working with them again?
Design Indaba put The Foxy Five on a stage, which we shared with other incredible industry giants. Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Patricia De Lille were there! It’s really incredible to get acknowledgement and appreciation on a level where we’re sharing a stage with experts and are being given the freedom to say whatever we want.The people who work for Design Indaba are really the ones creating a platform for young creatives in many more ways than you’d think. I would love to work with Design Indaba and hope to grow the existing relationship.
Your work is styled mostly in 1970’s style clothing but you deal with a diverse number of issues, why is this era a form of styling inspiration for you and can you name any other of your sources of inspiration beyond styling?
The 70’s were an incredibly politically charged time and especially for people of colour around the world. I wanted to pay homage to that time which I see as a black renaissance or resurgence and a time of when ideas of community and different forms of protest were investigated. Fashion and style is a huge influence in my work because I’m interested in how things looks and feel. How different colours, eras or styles can make one nostalgic of a time when you may have not even experienced. Its a type of time travelling I'd like to think. Dreams and memories are my main sources of inspiration but I’m very inspired by the people around me.
There have been conversations and questions about feminism being an “un-African or anti-black concept. What is your take on that and how do you tackle this?
That’s dumb. African women have been matriarchs and the drivers of matriarchal societies since forever. Feminism is a western term but our feminism is undefined. It runs deep in our ancestry and the homes they’ve built. Foxy Five tackles these issues by representing feminism in everyday experiences and occurrences. Black women simply surviving is a feminist act. I’m just privileged to know and understand the word “feminism”.
How has your politics background influenced or inspired your work?
My parents were both incredibly politicized so it was always expected that I would be the first female president of South Africa or something lol. So when I got to university I wanted to become a professor and essentially a philosopher, lol. That lasted a semester and I decided to study film although I kept my politics course as a major because I loved it. Politics is personal and affects everyone of us. It’s hard for a film not to have a political message whether it’s subliminal or in your face. My political message is just more obvious than others.
Qiniso Van Damme
Web series are often picked up by mainstream television for example Issa Rae’s ‘Awkward Black Girl’ coming alive through ‘Insecure’ on HBO and are played on channels such as Vuzu. Do you have ambitions of creating television content or producing a potential film with the Foxy Five?
Yes definitely. Things like Girls, Broad City, Akee and Saltfish and Insecure,as you mentioned, were all web series before getting picked up by a network and my biggest inspiration. I want The Foxy Five to reach more young black girls and the only way to achieve that is through TV. I’m currently brainstorming a longer TV Format of The Foxy Five but also have lots of other scripts I want to produce.
Although there has been progress women are still seen as each other’s competition especially in this industry. What do you think needs to be done for women to be able to exist together without competition?
I don’t really understand why people still pit women against each other and push that idea that there can only be “one black woman” killing it. That’s just tokenism. Instead I see that the more black women filmmakers, writers, directors and overall women thriving, the more jobs I’m going to get because black women are going to be the ones hiring and booking me, not white men. We need boss (bitch) women in the industry to open the doors for all of us.
Are there any women that you believe are doing great work in tackling issues of sexism, feminism, racism, abuse and inequality that you would like to collaborate with?
Yhuuu! So many. Buhle Ngaba, Adwoa Aboah, Esther Mahlangu, Tony Gum, Manthe Ribane and so many more!
Your production is nearly an all-female production team. What role do the men that are part of it play and do they influence the production at all?
The roles that the men play are driving the crew and cast around. Giving us their gear and donating money. Maybe recording sound at times and carrying our bags of course. I wouldn’t say the influence the set but obviously a male presence changes things. They are more just their to help and most of them are either close friends or partners.
Check out The Foxy Five's latest episode "Femme Fatale and Lebo" below
Photography: Alice Mann
Interview: Palesa Buyeye